June 2022: Rhode Island Legalizes Recreational Marijuana and Protects Off-Duty Use

21 Jun


Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of Rhode Island.

What happened?
On May 25, 2022, Governor McKee signed Senate Bill 2430 (SB 2430) into law, which legalizes recreational marijuana and protects off-duty use.

What are the details?
Effective immediately, employers are permitted to refuse to hire, terminate, discipline, or take other employment action based on an individual’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because the individual was working while under the influence of cannabis. However, employers are prohibited from terminating or taking disciplinary action against an employee “solely for an employee’s private, lawful use of cannabis outside the workplace and so long as the employee has not and is not working under the influence of cannabis.”

There are exceptions if off-duty use is prohibited by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement or if the employer is a federal contractor or otherwise subject to federal law or regulation such that the failure to terminate or discipline the employee would cause the employer to lose a monetary or licensing benefit under the law or regulation.

In addition, if an employee works in a job, occupation, or profession that is “hazardous, dangerous or essential to public welfare and safety,” an employer may adopt and implement policies that prohibit the use or consumption of cannabis within the 24-hour period prior to a scheduled work shift or assignment.

Examples of work that falls under this exception include:

  • Operation of an aircraft
  • Watercraft
  • Heavy equipment
  • Heavy machinery
  • Commercial vehicles
  • School buses or public transportation
  • Use of explosives
  • Public safety, first responder jobs
  • Emergency and surgical medical personnel  

Drivers of commercial motor vehicles who are subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol testing regulations never may use marijuana and will be disqualified from driving if they test positive for marijuana.

The law also provides for automatic expungement of certain civil and criminal convictions related to the possession of marijuana.  All eligible records will be expunged by July 1, 2024. Employers may not require an employee to disclose a sealed or expunged offense unless otherwise required by law.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill 2430 (SB 2430)

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and ensure their drug testing policies and procedures are in compliance with the law.

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